Iowa football ready for Rugamba’s return

Former Iowa cornerback Manny Rugamba will play his first game for Miami (Ohio) against Iowa on Saturday.


The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Sm

Manny Rugamba runs toward the sideline during the game between Iowa and Penn State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. Both teams are going into the game undefeated with records of 3-0. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

Manny Rugamba will be back in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. But this time, he’s a visitor.

The former Hawkeye cornerback transferred to Miami (Ohio) following the 2017 season and sat out in 2018 due to NCAA transfer rules. That means on Saturday, Rugamba will be back in his old home stadium against his old teammates in his first game for the RedHawks.

“Early on, I knew what school he went to, and then that’s our season opener,” Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette said. “Once the schedule dropped, I was like ‘Oh yeah, Manny goes there.’ That’s when I knew I have the potential to go against him.”

Rugamba burst onto the scene for the Hawkeyes with a breakout game in Iowa’s upset victory over Michigan in 2016, earning Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors.

He ended up starting three games during the season, racking up 2 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, and a forced fumble. His performance earned him Iowa’s Next Man In award on the defensive side of the ball.

Now wearing red instead of Iowa’s black and gold, Rugamba could be the subject of some trash talk come Saturday — even if the Hawkeyes are usually quiet.

“It all depends on what happens on the field — you can’t dictate it right now,” Smith-Marsette said. “But probably some words will be exchanged. It’s football.”

Working receivers

 This is the week the current Hawkeye wide receivers officially take over from the pass-catching corps Iowa boasted last season.

Gone are the days of T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, and Nick Easley. Now, it’s time for Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith, and Nate Wieting.

“As talented as they are, their work ethic is right up there with their talent,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “There’s no lack of work ethic from them. They do a great job at expressing what they see out on the field and there’s a great connection back and forth between us.”

With a whole crew set for an expanded role, the receivers and quarterback need to be on the same page. Although Smith-Marsette and Smith have plenty of experience playing with Stanley, the extra work doesn’t hurt.

“Like every year, you never know what’s going to happen,” Smith-Marsette said. “Just to come in during the offseason, get some throwing in with Nate — and it’s not just me and Brandon. You got Nico [Ragaini], Tyrone [Tracy]. You got other players that can step in.

“Just getting chemistry all-around has been pretty good in the offseason coming and working with Nate. We’re letting him know how we feel and he’s letting us know how to run certain routes and everything like that, how he wants it.”

Depth chart, injury, and Oliver Martin update

 Offensive guard Cole Banwart is doubtful for Iowa’s season-opener, Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday.

Banwart had been competing with Levi Paulsen for the starting slot at right guard, so Paulsen should see an increased role.

Ferentz also announced that redshirt freshman Spencer Petras has won the backup quarterback position over sophomore Peyton Mansell.

On the Oliver Martin front, Ferentz said Iowa is still awaiting the NCAA’s decision regarding Martin’s waiver.

“He’s definitely in our plans to play him, and he’d be on the travel team if we were traveling,” Ferentz said. “If we get the green light, we’ll play him at some point.”